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Thailand commits to UAV production project

Thailand's Defence Technology Institute (DTI) – a research and development (R&D) entity under the Thai Ministry of Defence (MoD) – has signed an agreement with the Royal Thai Army (RTA) to develop a medium-range tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) the DTI is to develop a platform, based on a Chinese UAV design, to replace the RTA's Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Searcher Mk II UAVs, which have been in operation since the early 2000s.

The DTI said on 29 June that it would co-operate with the RTA in developing and testing a series of prototype UAVs for trials. If successful, production of the UAV would likely be led by private industry.

The proposed Thai UAV is named ‘DTI D-Eyes 04', with previous iterations of D-Eyes systems featuring the development of smaller hand-held systems. The much larger D-Eyes 04 has a wingspan of about 13 m and is 7 m in length. Endurance is believed to be up to 20 hours.

The platform is based on China's CY-9, which is a tactical twin-boom-airframe UAV produced by Beihang UAS Technology: a company linked to Beihang University, formerly the Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics.

The scope of any technological partnership between the DTI and Beihang on the D-Eyes 04 project has not been disclosed. However, the two organisations have developed a strong partnership in recent years.

In June 2020 the DTI awarded Beihang a THB95 million (USD3 million) contract for the supply of a UAV virtual training system to the RTA. In May 2020 the DTI and Beihang also signed an MOU in relation to a possible joint venture.

Earlier, in 2018, the DTI and Beihang also signed an agreement to co-operate on UAV research, development and production.

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